In the dusk-yellow sunshine of the desert, the morning wind is crackling like static over the sand. It breathes salt, breathes sore throats and raw skin against the red mountains. The crows are croaking again, low and harsh and rattling like the final breaths of a half-dead man.
This man is alive. He crawls spidery and long-limbed against the dirt-rimed cliffs, lost now in a patch of purple shadow. Now here he is in the sunlight, new and watery, and his skin is red and peeling, and the snatches that have fallen off flutter to the dunes below like snow. This man is alive
(alive for now)
alive for the hot cruel scratch scratch of the sun on his back, on the back of his skull and dry in his hollow cheeks. This man drinks water like
life dripping past his tonsils and curl-purring deep in his belly. This man is alive for now forever and alone.
There are dark touches of cuts of bruises on his flesh where the rocks have caught and held him to them, because the rocks are lonely like the man like the desert like the croaking crows and the dead trees forever lonely and alone. This man has red skin, purple skin, black skin and skin mottled yellow like the sun and the stormy sky. This man drips blood and lymph on the cliff, and it dries instantly and is powdery beneath his fingertips as he climbs.
He is on the ground. The sand burns him even though he has tied the skin of his sister to his feet. He walks on her face, on her eyes and her nose bending crackling bubbling in the hot sand. His feet are blistered, tough like leather with sand in each crevice of his sole. There is sand there, and here, and forever dotted with the black of the crows, the croaking crows and the cliffs. He has black hands, black eyes.
Today it is quiet and the sand hills are rippling like muscles. Sometimes he sees the cat-faces exposed ribs of scavengers among the shadowpaths but today he sees only himself, the dark curls of his fingers where they
would be where they are
missing. He flexes invisible digits and his fingerstumps twitch with longing. He has three fingers, which is five minus two, which is the number of years the man has lived here minus the number of years he has lived here alone.
This means that five minus
forever would also equal three, and forever minus
forever is three, and he has stayed on the sand
three seconds too long so that it burns holes in his sisters face but the number of hurt is only
four so he keeps moving.
There is a pile of viscera steaming on the next hill. They appear sometimes, piles of
intestines and kidneys and things he has forgotten the names for, springing up like mushrooms in the night. The scavengers are too fast for him, usually, but today he is so early that the blood has not finished crusting. He rubs some on his arms to replace what he lost on the cliffs, until blood-color is the same as
skin-color which is
sunburn-color like the mountains. He picks up a thick grey organ but it falls, slips away. He curses himself no-fingersfat-fingersscar-fingers and then the scavengers are there on the hills, blue shadows and then they are beside him.
This one has one eye, and it is a
green eye, a color that is not brown or red or black or purple and the man is gasping with the memories of
green. Green is like grass which is soft and cool, like his sister’s sweater, like fat sour pickles in low round barrels on the Fourth of July.
green is moss that grows on
green is trees which have
green is leaves. This one has one green eye so the man does not mind when the scavenger reaches up into his chest and pulls out his heart, which is shaped like a crow and bleeding sand.
He loses the heart like he lost the fingers
which is easily. Maybe it will be a little harder to get up in the morning but maybe not. One day the man knows he will lose enough that he will die, that he will appear in the morning like a mushroom fungus of
no-fingers. The man knows that he will die, but that doesn’t bother him because until then he has forever
two and his sister’s face on the soles of his feet. This scavenger has a cat face and long legs and a tail which is bone. His heart bleeds sand not blood thicker than blood but gritty, so the scavenger drops it and then is gone into the purple shadows.
Here is the man in the weak sunlight thickened with quiet. In five minus two years he will forget the color green.
Here are two dunes before the man, hills shining gold with sunlight and hazy with heat. He is panting pain into the stale hair
His tongue clings hopefully to the roof of his mouth, small fat strings of not-saliva knitting
thought-to-thought. He thinks of water and nothing. The crows circle above him and he shields his eyes with the wishes of not-fingers, dream-shadow. They are waiting for him to die, but the man is not worried because he has forever. There are five crows, then three. Three crows and one man climb over the hot hills.
Sand is eating away at his ankles. He feels the grains below the skin, corroding, spiderwebbing red beneath the thin membrane. The crows are eating him, eating his toes, and the heat melts strings of his flesh into their beaks, waiting, wanting, drooling skin-flesh to sizzle/powder on the sand. The man walks because he has to walk, because he has too long and if he stops he won’t have feet and the skin of his sister is grey and fallen so he keeps moving, keeps moving.
There is water over the next hill. The man can sense it
sense blue, sense color and water
life just below the surface of the sand. The sky is yellow but somewhere in the back of his mind it is
blue, blue like
water which is
brown but blue should be
blue is blue somewhere the man knows is
blue the sea is
He leaves sanguine footprints smeared with skin and he lies flat to lick the blood back into his body.
He is climbing. Separate seconds, minutes, clump damp like sweat against his lips. This is not the cliff-climb but the hill-climb, long and slow and reverberating through his legs hips spine. His feet are bone, white-bleached fragments in the hot sun and the man knows they were always bone, forever bone, two feet that three minutes past had been skin-feet but he can’t remember because that was forever ago so he keeps climbing. The crows are gone, now, scattered to the blackthorn trees, the red mountains, the dead. This man is alive
(alive for now)
and he moves side-ways beetle-wise up the golden slope.
Here is the man across the dune, flat-footed on flatland, scrubland, blackland. Here there are scavengers dark-eyed, no-eyed, blood-colored. It smells dark yellow like decay and the wind is full of knives.